Does collaboration begin in the playground?
New York City’s Commissioner of Parks Adrian Benepe thinks so. That’s why the city is partnering with Rockwell Group Architecture and Design to develop a prototype “Imagination Playground.” The idea is to encourage interaction, social play and collaboration. Gone are the monkey bars and seesaws, which child psychologists increasingly believe develop physical skills at the expense of social and interactive skills.
The prototype playground at New York’s South Street Seaport is designed to “suggest options” and provide a flexible environment for many types of play, rather than prescribed activities. The environment includes what designers call the “raw materials of creativity.” These include such items as sand and water, blocks, buckets, shovels, and a wheelbarrow. Using an idea first implemented in Europe, trained adults called play workers act as facilitators. The city expects to ultimately transform many of New York’s playgrounds into Imagination Playgrounds.
The Imagination Playground echoes the trend in companies to create gathering spaces where people feel comfortable sharing ideas. This helps break down barriers among functions, levels and departments. This, in turn, increases collaboration. Instilling collaborative culture in the playground will likely enhance collaboration in tomorrow’s workplace.